Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Now That's More Like It!

Correspondent Scott, Receiving His First Liverpool Kit on Christmas Morning
photo by rjones0856via PhotoRee

In which Correspondent Scott continues to cling stubbornly to his delusions of grandeur over Liverpool's prospects this season:

The Liverpudlians of week three in the EPL looked to be the older, bigger, better brother of last week’s team.  They didn’t deliver a merciless Manhandlers United-type beating to the hapless Bolton Wanderers, but they did dominate with mostly crisp play, a sense of urgency and solid defense (save for the one Jamie Carragher lapse).

Starting with an abundance of energy, yet patiently working the ball from the back when needed, the team is be beginning to gel.  Still, however, the lion’s share of offensive creativity begins with Luis Suarez.  Consider his beautiful outside-of-the-foot curling cross to Stuart Downing in the 15th minute: although Downing did well with it,  Jussi Jaaskelainen deflected to Dirk Kuyt who layed off to Jordan Henderson, whose first attempt was blocked before the second sailed into the netting.

Suarez will probably take little comfort in the praise he will surely receive for his inspiring performance, as he is all about goals and didn't get one.  His only blemish on the day came when he rather over-confidently attempted to chip Jaaskelainen on a break away in the 24th minute instead of picking a corner, his effort bending the top of the net the wrong way.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Rogue Brewery Morimoto Soba Ale

(4.80% ABV).  Served at a restaurant and poured into a pilsner glass, Morimoto Soba Ale is a light caramel color with very little lacing. The lack of lacing could be the beer, or could be the glassware; it's hard to say for certain. I get toasty hops on the nose, and maybe a touch of seaweed, although that again could be the restaurant or my imagination. There's definitely a certain depth to the smell of this beer, though. 

Morimoto is interesting on the tongue, as the hops in the initial nose become only a minor player in the beer, and the overwhelming impression I am left with is a nice big piece of liquid buttery toast.   One thing's for sure, though: this doesn't taste like any other beer I've had before.  

It's fairly well carbonated and very easy drinking. Im betwixt and between on this one -- it's very unusual. B.

Monday, August 29, 2011


photo by Jofus | JoeTheDoughvia PhotoRee

Manchester United showed no mercy yesterday, issuing an historic beatdown to an undermanned Arsenal side, and inflicting the worst defeat their North London rivals have suffered in 115 years of playing football.  8-2 only begins to tell part of the tale, as the game's final scoreline could easily have been much worse.  United dominated the Gunners from whistle to whistle, and goals flew in from every which angle and player: Rooney (3), Young (2), Welbeck, Nani, and Park all added their name to the scorer's sheet in a match that inflicted a significant psychological blow to Arsenal and their beleaguered manager, Arsene Wenger, damage from which it could take the Londoners some significant amount of time to recover.

Playing as if they were concerned the local headlines would revolve around their Noisy Neighbors' 5-1 victory over Spurs earlier in the afternoon, United dominated possession against their rivals and time and again displayed the lightning quick pace and breathtaking offensive moves for which the young side is quickly becoming noted.  Indeed, it's difficult to note any even insignificant deficiencies in the Champions effort on Sunday, with the only disappointment in the match for United fans certain to be Danny Welbeck's hamstring pull midway through the first half.

Highlights from the contest are numerous, so instead of rehashing what would be a very  lengthy list I'll leave you with some general impressions from the match:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chattering Away

photo by Denzil~via PhotoRee

EPL Week Three Thoughts and Notes

o ESPN2 goal count, after the dreadful Wolves - Villa game Saturday morning in the States: 270-plus minutes of action so far this season, with one goal scored by the offense -- and that a garbage goal in stoppage time. I can't wait to see which game they have in store for us next week....

o Although Norwich looked every bit like a Championship side against Chelsea in the first 15 minutes of Saturday's action, by the 20 minute mark it was the Canaries who were beginning to ask the questions.  Jose Bosingwa was the only player in blue looking the least bit lively on the attack, as Chelsea appeared slow and either uninterested in or incapable of moving forward in a quick and coordinated manner.  Didier Drogba and Fat Frank Lampard's most notable first half plays involved free kicks that contributed to the growing mass of "space junk" orbiting the earth.

o On the other side of the ball, Chelsea's back line looked 'fragile' to say the least. Slow and creaky, Chelsea were exposed by a Canaries team that I had dismissed as none-too-speedy.  And if the media have been hard on young David De Gea, the response to Hilario's performance in between the sticks should be some serious howls of derision.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Burton Baton American Double / Imperial IPA

(10.0% ABV). Poured on draft after a tap takeover at an event featuring Dogfish Head and Short's Brewery held in Traverse City, Michigan, Burton Baton was a reddish-brown, warm caramel color with a medium-sized head of foam that stayed around for awhile, before ultimately leaving behind epic lacing.

The beer smelled of big hops and pine needles, followed by a caramel sweetness. It was big and boozy tasting, bursting with orange citrus and caramel, and had an oaked-wood depth to it, with hints of woodsy licorice showing up on the finish.

This was a huge beer, and if I didn't have somewhere to be later that same night, I would've asked for several more -- and loved them.  A-.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two At the Top

Correspondent Ed and a pal, doing their best impersonation of the Thompson Twins
photo by A National Acrobatvia PhotoRee

Ed is back, with an analysis that (for once) is hard to argue with:

There’s a campy ‘80s hit by a band called the Thompson Twins that begins:

If you were here, I could deceive you,
And if you were here, you would believe

Well, “campy” is a bit negative; it’s actually a cute little tune that can be tough to get out of your head once you start to hum it or whistle it or whatever. But it pretty much sums up what we’re being sold these days by the media about the EPL. “Oh” they say, “it’s no longer a Big Four, it’s now a Big Six.” Or, “there’s really six teams at least fighting for the top spots in this league.” Well, sorry folks, but as much as the EPL’s going to be exciting this year, it’s really turned into a league of two.

Yep. First there’s Manchester City. As the grandmother of a friend of mine used to say, “Rich or Poor, it’s good to have money.” And I think that sums up where City’s at right now.

City have an annual payroll of something like £100MM. Wow. People keep speaking of the number of talented players on their bench, and how wastefully they’ve spent. Well, perhaps that’s part true, but City brass has been pretty clear that they’re looking to have two top tier players at every position on the field. This gives them depth over a very long season, and it gives them the ability to put the guy in form into the rotation, and bench the guy who just isn’t getting it done for some reason or another. This strategy is expensive. However, it’s also very calculated and effective. It’s kind of like the Terminator showing up at the doorstep of every person named “Sarah Conner.” In the end, you know you’ll get your guy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three Points Never Felt So Bad

photo by suzyq212via PhotoRee

Today we present you with Scott, our crack(ed) correspondent on the Liverpool beat:

As Liverpool met a stripped-bare Arsenal at the Emirates last Saturday, pressure was on both teams to get their campaigns going after unconvincing first games. With Cesc Fabregas' departure now old news, and Samir Nasri's departure imminent (despite his figuring in the starting XI), not to mention a growing list of injuries, Arsenal seemed to be on a downward spiral. Liverpool, on the other hand, were like a powerful train just starting to chug out of the station after a tune-up. Summer midfield and defensive signings adding to winter forward signings, they are poised to be the Reds everyone talks about.

Unfortunately, the game was mostly an ugly affair as the Luis Suarez-free Liverpool starters did their best to keep the limping Arsenal team in the match, even after the Gunners lost yet another player when poor Laurent Koscielny went off in the 14th minute with a back injury. Oh, sure, there were some highlights, such as Andy Carroll's snappy header that was acrobatically dealt with by the vowel-challenged Arsneal 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny. And Jose Enrique was brilliant in back with runs down the flank, excellent distribution and solid defense (Theo Walcott had no answer for him). Meanwhile, Stewart Downing was looking energetic and dangerous for most of the day.

But all that was largely overshadowed by the extra something that was missing without Suarez on the pitch. Not to mention a couple of truly horribly free kicks by the usually-dependable Charlie Adam. And a silly yellow card for Carroll's ill-conceived kick after the whistle. All combining for a goalless first 70 minutes, as dreary as the ashen skies loosing the monotonous parade of raindrops that had Arsene Wenger looking like a drowned rat.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spurs Existential Crisis, or Lack Thereof

photo by Zweifüsslervia PhotoRee

James is back, in a piece dripping with passion for his beloved Spurs:

It's a wretchededly warm August evening in the Deep South, USA as I weep into my Victory Helios Saison (8.5% ABV - just what the Doctor ordered) and contemplate the even more wretched second half display by Super Super Tottenham of the Lane (which I just watched for the second time, thanks to the glories of digital video recorders and self flagellation). And my thoughts wander, inevitably, to that magical, small, elf-like creature with mystical powers of crossovers, pinpoints and - most wonderfully - "holding," that we Spurs fans have affectionately referred to as "Modds" and "Lesbian Rat Boy," depending on whether it was before or after July. I refer, of course, to little Luka Modric himself.

It was very easy for all of us long-suffering inferiority-complexed Yids to see in the Modric saga an existential drama playing out in full form, with the despised Chelsea (of all clubs) the latest personification of Big Three Axis of Evil, to reinforce noted ESPN humorist and Gooner David Herschey's description of Spurs as "The World's Most Glamorous Feeder Club." And then there was our Chairman, David Levy, who, in no uncertain terms, responded to Roman Abramovich's overtures with a loud and unambiguous "Not On My Watch!" We will no longer be The World's Most Glamorous Feeder Club, we will not repeat the humiliation of Berbatov, Carrick, etc., we will not cower against the economic behemoths of the EPL, be they Russian mobsters, middle eastern oil barons, or - worst of all - over leveraged American private equity profiteers....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Fountain of Youth

photo by jaci XIIIvia PhotoRee

It was youth to the fore for United's contest against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford last night, as Sir Alex once again fielded the latest crop of Fergie's Fledglings, handing a coveted starting spot to David De Gea, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Tom Cleverly, Chris Smalling, and Danny Welbeck, among others.  The Red team on the pitch offered a tantalizing glimpse into the future of the home side, as the average age of the Manchester United starting eleven equaled 23 years, representing the second youngest starting lineup in EPL history.

Spurs veteran coach Harry Redknapp countered with a mix of veteran guile (Brad Friedel and Rafa Van Der Vaart)  and youthful exuberance (Gareth Bale and Jake Livermore), but his midfield attack was lacking its chief engineer, with Luka Modric left back in London due to a serious case of the "Not Rights."

As the Old Trafford crowd has no doubt grown accustomed to over the years, the Reds wasted no time in attacking straight out of the gate, with Danny Welbeck just missing a ball that skidded through the box, and Rooney firing just over Nani's head shortly after the whistle blew. The combination was reversed just a minute later, as Nani connected with Rooney's head, but the focal point of the Red's attack was unable to direct it past Spurs 'keeper Friedel, a longstanding member of the United torture squad. Less than five minutes in and the pace was torrid.

Tom Cleverly tested Friedel after a swift move up the pitch involving Ashley Young and Chris Smalling, but Cleverly was denied from just outside the box, with Friedel once again more than up to the task in tipping the ball wide. United looked sharp, daggers drawn in the game's early going, as tackles flew in from every which angle on defense, and Ashley Young and Nani received the ball wide while streaming down the flanks.

Van Der Vaart gave De Gea a welcoming trip to the EPL, wanting in on the new tradition of beating on the Spanish newcomer, as Van Der Vaart's fellow Dutchman -- the man De Gea replaced -- watched from the stands above. At the other end of the pitch, Phil Jones returned the favor to Tottenham winger Gareth Bale, slicing him down as the Spurs' version of the Welsh Wizard -- poorer, hairier, and nowhere near as bedecked with trophies -- steamed goalward, as if signaling the Londoner's intent on playing themselves back into the contest by the twenty minute mark.

The look of the contest was fixed by this time, featuring United's swiftness down the wings against Spurs' desire to slow things down and move the ball through the middle of the park. United looked lively, with Ashley Young heading just wide among other chances, but seemed to lack just that last bit of quality in the final third of the pitch.

Game Day Beer Review: Short's Brewing Co. Huma-Lupa-Licious India Pale Ale

(6.90% ABV).  Served on draft, Huma-Lupa-Licious pours a golden orange caramel color with virtually no head. It smells of mild hops and apples. Huma-Lupa begins with toasty orange citrus (I'm getting more orange than grapefruit) and pine needle flavors, and ends with a hoppy bitterness that lingers nicely on the tongue.

It's refreshing. I don't normally love this style of beer -- I know, I know, that's practically sacrilege for an American craft beer drinker, but it's true -- but this is one IPA I could drink again and again.  I'm going with an A-.

Monday, August 22, 2011

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

photo by Joost J. Bakker IJmuidenvia PhotoRee

A few things I noticed on an EPL Super Sunday that would have been better off billing itself as "Sleepy Sunday":

o Two years ago Norwich City was playing the likes of Colchester United in the First Division, and yesterday they were unlucky not to take all three points from Stoke City in the big leagues.  You've come a long way, baby.

o Wow!  Someone spent some money on the Molineux in the off season. Last year the turf looked like a goat patch, and this season it looks like the Emirates. Kudos to the shepherds... err, I mean groundskeepers.

o Matt Jarvis doesn't look like a prototypical EPL winger. He's kind of short and stubby, actually. He does wear his socks up over his knees, though, almost as if he's Spanish, and he repeatedly gets the job done: a goal and an assist to show for his efforts yesterday. What in the world was I thinking when I transfered him out of my Fantasy team.....?.

o And speaking of Fantasy Football mistakes, why in the world did I bury Richie De Laet on my bench?  The once and future Man United man -- on loan to Norwich City this season -- had a nice glancing header to give his side a deserved first half lead. He almost grabbed another four points for the shutout, as well, before a late late Kenwyne Jones stoppage time header denied him a fantasy four and his real life team two very costly points. Some amount of blame has to be laid at the feet of referee Neil Swarbrick, who blew the major call in the game and forced the home side to play a majority of the second half with only ten men.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Musings and Mutterings

photo by Orin Zebestvia PhotoRee

Musings and Mutterings from a twisted EPL mind

o I hate Liverpool, but I have to say I like their new away kits. Kind of makes them look like the former bad boys of the NFL, the Oakland Raiders, no?

o If Marouane Chamakh can't crack Saturday's starting lineup, or even get a runout in the game for that matter -- when virtually everyone on Arsenal is hurt, traded, or red carded -- what does it say about where he ranks in Le Professor's long-term plans?  Au revoir, my friend.

o On a more serious note: Andre Arshavin is a mere shadow of his former self. Do you think it's women, booze or drugs to blame?  Just asking....

o Memo to ESPN2: You've now televised180+ minutes of Saturday morning EPL action, and have only a comedic own goal and a garbage time score to show for it. Is this how we're going to get the US audience interested in football?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reflecting on the EPL Week That Was

photo by Andréiavia PhotoRee

Before we begin this week's EPL action, let's take a look back at some of the events from the season's opening weekend:

o Is there anyone out there who still thinks Kun Aguero isn't going to cut it in the EPL? I've been dreading his signing ever since it was first announced. I heard some doubters say that El Kun liked to linger on the ball too long, or take too many touches, and would never adapt to the "speed" of the EPL. I think that particular critique has been exposed as faulty, given his perofmance last Monday. Granted, this was Swansea who he and City were facing, but let's give credit where credit is due: El Kun is no Edin Dzeko. And there are now two words I'm sure were being bantered around Eastlands this week: Carlos Who?

o So, has AVB decided in favor of El Niño over El Drogbo at Chelsea? It certainly seems that way based on week one.... While Torres did look slightly better than last season, how could he not? That isn't a very high bar by which to judge.... But in the one area on which you can judge, it's easy to count the number of goals scored by the Spanish striker last weekend: none. Meanwhile, I have to say that John Terry looked very creaky indeed at the back for the Blues.  Couldn't happen to a nicer guy....

o I laughed my @ss off when I heard Gervinho's hairdo referred to as an "updated street version of a comb-over," or the comb-over "re-booted," on the Guardian EPL podcast this past week. Great description, guys.

Game Day Beer Review: Bell's Brewery Big Porch Ale American Amber

(6.00% ABV).  Poured from a bottle into a pilsner glass, Big Porch Amber Ale is noticeable only in its mild smell; there's almost nothing there. It's exactly the color you'd expect with its name: amber, and maybe slightly darker orange near the top. It's mild tasting, too, infused with a malty sweetness.

This is not a very complex beer, but it's well suited for when you want to just kick back and relax -- tailor made for vacation. Big Porch is very mellow, and definitely recommended for sipping in the summertime while sitting in a big rocking chair on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, overlooking Lake Huron in the distance. Soak it all in: I'll give it a B.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Confessions of a Stark Raving Lunatic: Correspondent Scott On How the EPL Season Will End

We Let Correspondent Scott Out For a Few Hours to Write the Following Blog Entry
photo by State Records NSWvia PhotoRee

Our Liverpool correspondent, Scott, weights in with some delusional thoughts on what should be yet another pain-filled season for him:

Prediction is a funny art: In my view, it's a three syllable word for “guess” that is often employed by those who bear a resemblance to the second syllable and who prefer the third as a course of action when they are proven wrong.  But since I’ve been called worse and I strive to bolster intra-staff rivalries, below you'll find a pint-sized list of clairvoyant concoctions.  

That my team predilections and raging CFE (Current Form Envy – recently included as a diagnosable condition in the latest DSM – EPL version) are essential ingredients, should in no way cause you to doubt the accuracy of my hopes, err, predictions.

1)      Liverpool will win another title before Manchester United does.  Yes, it is with no small amount of trepidation that I lead off with such an inflammatory statement, almost certainly to be met with patronizing and derisive chuckles around the office.  But I stand firmly behind it – not so much because Manchester United has declined significantly (although David De Gea in goal is a big step down, both starting center backs went off injured last game and I believe the Rooney-Berbatov-Hernandez détente will crumble this year) but because, as has been pointed out in other columns, Liverpool is a vastly improved team this year in terms of talent.  

The Liverpool midfield was already filled with talent the likes of Dirk Kuyt, Raul Miereles, and Maxi Rodriguez (not to mention Steven Gerrard when [if?] he’s not injured), but with the additions of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, it has become an embarrassment of riches.  The forward position was waning with Fernando Torres, but is waxing once again with the scurrying Luis Suarez and the fit-again Andy Carroll.  Recommitted to the team, Pepe Reina is one of the best keepers in the league.  That only leaves the defense as suspect which, admittedly, is not yet up to snuff and I expect King Kenny to work his magic there soon, too.  The recent addition of Jose Enrique helps but more is needed, the youth of John Flanagan notwithstanding.  Liverpool will finish in the Top 4, can compete for the Title and will win the Title again before Manchester United does.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Super Cup or Super Farce?

photo by scottfeldsteinvia PhotoRee

Pep Guardiola was back in his modified Devo costume last night as Barcelona and Real Madrid played for the second time in four days, this time at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. I don't know about you, but these 'Clasicos' are seeming more like 'Commonos' with their seemingly regular occurences.

Once again, Los Madrilenos came out of the blocks flying, peppering Barcelona 'keeper Victor Valdes right from the game's outset. Jose Mourinho had obviously amped up his side to compete physically with the smaller Catalans, who were dominated in Madrid earlier this week, nevermind the final 2-2 scoreline. Indeed, the Blaugrana's performance at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday left more than a few fans and journos alike scratching their pates wondering what happened to the vaunted Barca possession game.

On Wednesday night, it was Cristiano Ronaldo channelling the King, Eric Cantona, with his upturned collar striking fear in the hearts of the Catalan defenders in the early action. Barcelona countered with a King of their own, as Lionel Messi slotted in Andres Iniesta, who chipped Real goaltender Iker Casillas to give the Catalans an early lead in the same casual manner you or I might take a Sunday stroll on the beach.

Ronaldo evened matters less than five minutes later, as a rare Eric Abidal concentration lapse managed to keep Los Merengues onside, with the Portuguese wonderman tapping in a brilliant Karim Benzema delivery to knot the scoreline at one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On a Dull Knife's Edge

photo by Greencolandervia PhotoRee

A Cesc- and Samir-less Arsenal played a Alexi-less Udinese at the Emirates last night in a Champions League qualifier that stood out solely for its lack of finishing. Although the English domestic league opened for business this past weekend, the action in Italy doesn't open for another week and a half, so theoretically the home side should have had a distinct advantage heading into the match.

o That theoretical favoritism turned into a real life boon in less than five minutes, as the Gunners' Theo Walcott volleyed a pinpoint Aaron Ramsey cross into the back of the net for a quick 1-nil lead. Ramsey had better be up to repeating the beauty of that first cross a bunch this season, as the London side is going to need to have a heckuva season out of him if they hope to maintain their Champions League qualification. Note that I didn't say "...hope to win a trophy."

o Anyone else thinking Gervinho is pretty much going to fit in perfectly at Arsenal?  He looks great on the ball, but almost always makes the wrong move or pass right at the critical juncture. I haven't seen enough of him to make a final judgment, but what I've seen so far hasn't been too convincing.

o Arsenal's defense last night, despite keeping a clean sheet, looked as porous as a sponge.  Udinese cut the Gunners' back four to shreds on the counterattack on more than one occasion, and their domestic rivals, including Liverpool and United, must be licking their lips in anticipation, especially given that Sir Alex's favorite style of slaying the Londoners involves absorbing pressure and then striking hardest when Arsenal gets caught too far up the pitch.

o And if the defense was bad, it has to be said the offense -- bar Walcott's early goal -- was not much better, looking as impotent as a roomful of eunuchs during the game's second half. Luckily for Arsenal, Udinese displayed a profligacy in front of net that had to be seen to be believed, as well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Normal Service Resumed

photo by rivovia PhotoRee

The English Champions returned to action on Sunday, playing West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. It was a welcome return to action for fans of the once and future champs, and Sir Alex wasted no time in introducing several of his talented youngsters into the Opening Day lineup, preferring Tom Cleverly and Danny Welbeck to Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov. Newboy David De Gea started in goal, while ex-Red Ben Foster manned the nets for the home side.

o United piled the pressure on immediately, as if demonstrating that the players couldn't wait for the season to begin, too. And what a difference a year makes: this season it was Wayne Rooney getting off the mark quickly, as he dispatched an easy left footer past the diving Foster to give the Reds a 1-nil lead.  Admittedly, West Brom showcased some pre-season form and was absolutely awful in closing Rooney down, generously offering him acres of space just on top of the 18 yard box. The goal was greeted with celebrations heard the world 'round -- probably everywhere except the West Midlands, in fact --  as United's legions of fans can't help but be cheered by the sight of a smiling Rooney finding goal so early in the season.

o The traveling fans were in fine throat yesterday, serenading the boys in Red and being heard loud and clear all the way across the Atlantic, via my laptop, via Slingbox, via DirecTV, via a dodgy internet connection at Newark Liberty International Airport.  Due to a brutal rainstorm yesterday that wiped out travel plans up and down the Eastern seaboard of the United States, I watched the first half hour of the match in this manner, so "Loud and Clear" was the only way they were going to be heard: mission accomplished, guys.

o Another week, another questionable goal allowed by David De Gea, in which he seemed once again to dive just over the top of a shot and allow the Baggies back into the match. De Gea looked as twitchy as Roy Hodgson's face during the match's second half, and the announcers on both English and American television were only too quick to jump on the young Spaniard -- I can't even imagine the reaction on the Twitterverse. One thing's for sure: I'm sticking with my boy, and riding him all the way this season, for better or worse. 

Game Day Beer Review: Coast Brewing 32/50 Kolsch

photo by Calwebvia PhotoRee

Beer: Coast Brewing 32/50 Kolsch

ABV: 4.80%

Appearance: Pale yellow with many many streaming bubbles, hazy like a wheat beer, and voluminous white head.

Smell: Flowery with spicy notes - very pleasing.

Taste: Crisp with a touch of noble hops bouncing through refreshing bursts of carbonation. Dry, clean and smooth finish.

Overall: My first American Kolsch and the best I've had of this style - possibly one the best beers I've had, period. Crisp but still complex enough to hold the interest, with an ABV worthy to relieve end-of-day stress.

Perhaps the quality owes a bit to my proximity to the brewery (located in Charleston, South Carolina), but I look forward to enjoying this for many years. A+

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Slap Heard 'Round The World

Photo by EmmiP
Arsenal and Newcastle met yesterday in front of 46,000 screaming Geordies at St. James Park, and what better way to kick off the new EPL season than with a rematch of one of last season's most thrilling matches: the 4-4 draw that saw the men in black and white spot the visitors four goals before deciding to pull back one of the most shocking points of the year.

In truth, the game failed to live up to its potential, with neither 'keeper having much of anything to do in a nil-nil draw that was largely devoid of serious action.  Plainly stated, the EPL season opened on Saturday with a whimper rather than a bang.  Or even more properly, the season opened with a slap.

o The biggest talking point of the game came down to not a goal -- hell, not even a chance at goal-- but instead a dustup and mild slap featuring none other than the always enigmatic Joey Barton and EPL newboy Gervinho.

o Just seeing Barton on the pitch was actually a bit of a shock; I honestly didn't expect him to feature for the Magpies. I give Alan Pardew credit for being able to forgive and forget, because Newcastle is a better team with Barton in the side than they are without him. By the way, Joey: I enjoyed seeing you rock the Travis Bickle mohawk yesterday.

o And Barton acted a bit like Bickle, up to his usual tricks against Arsenal.  He scuffled with both Alex Song and Gervinho, with the latter confrontation leading to a red card and early exit for the Ivorian and a yellow card for Barton.  I was also glad to see the contretemps flare over into Twitter after the game, with both sore loser (in two senses of the word) Piers Morgan and Jack Wilshere (when will he learn to bite hs tongue?) getting involved.

o And on the other side of the bout, Gervinho's a weird looking dude. Plus, he's got some learning to do: like first off, who Joey Barton is, and how to deal with him.Welcome to the EPL, kid.

Herewith some other thoughts on the largely uneventful game and both teams, in no particular order:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Through A Glass Darkly: Correspondent Ed's Pre-Season Predictions

Correspondent Ed Showcasing His Visionary Looking Glass
photo by TheGiantVerminvia PhotoRee

The boss man weighed in on what he thought the season would end like on Thursday's blog. Predictably, he had United winning the Title, followed by City, then Chelsea, then Arsenal. Unfortunately, I think he’s part right (even the blind squirrel, etc . . . . . ), but has missed something big, namely Liverpool. So here’s my “correct” call of this year’s EPL:

1. Manchester United. Regrettably, they’re still the team to beat. It starts in the back with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, but now they have some backup strength as well with Phil Jones. SAF is still looking to get ahead of Barca, and so I believe he’s trying to move on to the smaller, quicker, faster players in the line-up. Thus, Ashley Young and his attempts to get Wesley Sneijder. Up front, United’s loaded with talent, and Danny Welbeck may end up making Dimitar Berbatov, last year’s leading scorer, very moveable (back to Spurs?). Tom Cleverly also looked good enough in pre-season to make a run for the Paul Scholes position. United have already spent a bundle, and they may end up shoveling out about 100 Million pounds when all is said and done. That’s what gets you depth and ability at the top level. The only questionmark is the keeper David De Gea, who has so far underwhelmed. Even so, barring lots of injuries they are the favorite. Yick.

2. Manchester City. Despite being outplayed in the Community Shield, this team also has a lot of stout defenders with Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott. They are two deep at pretty much every spot on the pitch, and have the best 'keeper in the EPL. David Silva also continues to impress as one of the best in the EPL. That said, the only issue for City is the striker position and the annual Carlos Tevez distraction. With Tevez they are neck and neck with United. Without him, they are close but not quite there, unless Sergio Aguero is as good as advertised. We’ll see about that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Victory Brewing Helios (V Saison)

photo by walknbostonvia PhotoRee

Brewery: Victory Brewing, Pennsylvania

ABV: 7.5%

Appearence: Pours a hazy, bright gold with impressive off-white head, lacing and retention.

Smell: Lemon peel, peppers, yeast – very pleasing

Mouthfeel: Crisp, carbonated, very refreshing

Taste: Surprisingly complex for a saison but, at the same time, totally drinkable and would fit with a variety of foods. The melon sweetness is wonderfully balanced with spice, lemon sours and bit of hops. A very refreshing hot weather beer.

Overall: I'm not a big fan of saisons, primarily because I like my banana in my morning cereal not my beer (I don’t know why brewers go nuts on the banana in most saisons). This, however, leaves out the bananas and does a fantastic job of balancing the fruitiness it does have with bitter citrus, and a hint of earthy tasting hops. After having tried a legion of mediocre “summer lagers” and watery kolsch’s during this long hot summer, this was a very pleasant surprise and – at only $4 for a pint and a half bottle at my local craft beer store – an incredible bargain. The 7.5% ABV does not hinder the enjoyment factor, either. I will definitely drink this again.

Grade:  A

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The 1st Annual Pre-Season Picks

photo by bb_mattvia PhotoRee

So, it's time for the first annual farlieonfootie pre-season picks; that's why I've titled this blog accordingly. No pre-season preparation is finished until you've digested the many nuggets of wisdom I'm about to impart, so buckle up, strap in, and get ready for farlieonfootie's semi-famous and sometimes accurate picks.

You know, the ones in which we fully display all our biases and ignorance, and the ones in which our detractors (mainly Columnist Ed's family and friends) will use against us on the off chance they don't come true. Without any further ado, here's our top four teams for next season:

1. Manchester United. Yes, Manchester is Red, and the 2011/12 season will see United win the League for a record 20th time, and put some further domestic space between themselves and Liverpool. Goalkeeping remains the major wildcard, but we think newboy De Gea is more than up to the task, and expect Anders Lindegaard to offer a steady and efficient alternative. The addition of Ashley Young and Phil Jones will make up for the departure of Wes Brown and John O'Shea, and the squad has just been freshened enough to keep on keepin' on. Things to watch: will United sign Wesley Sniejder -- that move will be all about Europe -- and how will the brutal start to United's campaign play out?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Short's Brewing Nicie Spicie Spiced Wheat Ale

(5.20%) From the bottle. Nicie Spicie pours a viscous, lemonish yellow, with a cloudy appearance and just the thinnest white line of head. The smell is definitely citrusy orange, with just the barest hint of ginger. The first thing that hits me upon tasting is that this is different than most other spiced wheat beers I've ever had. I like it -- alot. With just a little hint of ginger, it's refreshing and clean tasting, and thinner than you might expect. As I continue to drain my glass I'm getting a bit of white pepper on the finish, which gets steadily hotter as you drink, but never too hot. This is a really good beer, a very different take on one of my absolute favorite styles. I give it an A.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Real Eye Opener

photo by Free-ersvia PhotoRee

"There's no such thing as a friendly against City." So tweeted Wayne Rooney just prior to kicking off the first Manchester derby since last April, as the two teams met Sunday afternoon to begin the 2011/2012 season in the Charity Shield at Wembley. And even though the final score won't count in the regular season results, make no mistake: both teams wanted victory in London yesterday, the second derby in a row outside the City of Manchester.

Sir Alex surprised with his starting selection, rewarding Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling for their strong pre-season performances, while Michael Carrick and Anderson manned the engine room. Crucially, Wayne Rooney, who famously missed the last game between the two sides, started the action up front, while David De Gea opened in goal. 

United began clearly the better of the two sides, showing serious intent right from the opening whistle. The Reds were unlcuky not to open the scoring off an early corner, as the ball rattled around the goal box before being deflected out. City gradually came into the game, but worryingly for Roberto Mancini, so did Mario Balotelli's personality as the Italian malcontent squared up against Nemanja Vidic, and Referee Phil Dowd was forced to intercede.

Tempers continued to flare in the misnamed "friendly," as Edin Dzeko and Anderson were both shown yellow, and Micah Richards should have seen red from Referee Dowd for a shocking takedown of Ashley Young. United didn't lack for for first half scoring opportunities, repeatedly generating some slick offensive moves only to be denied at the last minute.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Cigar City Brewing's Papaya India Pale Ale

(7.50% ABV). Poured from a 750 ml bottle into a snifter. Papaya IPA pours a deep gold, with a two-fingered head that leaves behind some serious lacing. Its smell is hops and tropical fruits, as you'd expect from a brewer in the Florida tropics. The papaya is there, very present in the taste, and its natural mellowed sweetness has the effect of calming down the hops.  The hop bitterness finally comes out in the beer's long finish. It's a decent IPA, and quite a nice switch from your every day drinker: B+.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Ginja Ninja

photo by Magnus Dvia PhotoRee

Seeing Pele and Cantona back on the pitch was almost enough in and of itself to make last night out of this world. If only they'd played, a truly special night would have been incredibly over the top. As it was, it was pretty damn good anyway, as the evening represented a fitting retrospective on Paul Scholes' United career.

Herewith some thoughts on the evening's festivities for one of the best in the business:

o United exposed the makeshift New York Cosmos team right from the start, with Nani and Berba both threatening goal to begin the action -- it was a vision of things to come.

o It was strange to see two number 18s on the pitch, with both the evening's honoree and new boy Ashley Young donning the famous number. Just one question: Couldn't United have asked Young to wear a different number, if ony for just for last night?

o Was Scholesy's goal to open the scoring a set up? At first I thought Brad Friedl may not have stretched quite as much as he might have, but when I saw the replay I realized what a well taken shot it was. The defenders may have backed off a bit when Scholes received the ball just outside the box, but his shot still had to be placed perfectly. The goal represented a perfect beginning to a perfect night.

o David De Gea must be getting bored in goal. He's had very little work to do against Barcelona and the Cosmos. Too bad the regular season won't be this easy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Short's Brewing Prolonged Enjoyment American Pale Ale

(3.50% ABV).  Poured on draft at Aerie, overlooking the beautiful Grand Traverse Resort, Prolonged Enjoyment appeared a crystal clear orange/yellow, with a thinnish white head that lasts. The beer's smell is all pine, all the time.  When it hits my mouth I'm getting citrus and pure pine needles.  It's pleasantly dry, very smooth, and eminently drinkable. B.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Upson Downs

Photo by Paul Blank
 As the season opener draws nears, Columnist Ian returns to our pages with some thoughts on West Ham United in general, and on a certain former Captain in particular :

A couple of years ago, in one of the transfer windows, my brother and I were discussing who we thought would be leaving West Ham. The discussion came around to Matthew Upson. “I don’t know about him,” I said to my brother. “He just doesn’t feel like a West Ham player to me.” My brother asked me what I meant by that comment. I couldn’t explain it at the time; I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. The best that I could explain was that I felt that he wouldn’t be a West Ham player for much longer. A couple of years later, now that West Ham’s skipper is moving to a new club, I feel like I can highlight some factors from the last couple of seasons that justify my original comment.

I would like to move on from last season and start thinking positively about the future of the club but there is still a residual bitter and angry feeling that I need to get off my chest. What is about to follow may seem like a rant and an unfair written assault on one player, but I keep trying to understand what went wrong last season. How could a group of such talented individuals get relegated? (My previous column gave some indications of the team’s failings but it still bewilders me that last season’s squad finished bottom of the pack.) To me, Matthew Upson epitomised the problems. Clearly the blame can’t be laid entirely at his feet but I feel like he, as Captain of the team, is more at fault than the majority of the other players. When something is rotten at the core, it is generally rotten throughout.

Despite him being handed the role of club Captain, there was no evidence (at least to the public) of any leadership from Matty. The following comment has been pointed out before in several other forums but how innocuous a job must Upson have been doing as cCptain that almost the entire football press referred to Scott Parker as West Ham’s Captain? Parker was widely reported to have given a rousing half-time speech that led to an unlikely comeback in the game against West Brom last season. Admittedly, Upson was unavailable for that game but was there any evidence of that kind of spirit and inspiration in any of the other games where we needed that sort of attitude and leadership? Not that I saw or read about. Some of you might argue that it was the management team’s job to motivate the team but sometimes you also need your Captain to rally the troops. He just didn’t seem to care about the club. If we were relegated then he could always just go to another club next season.

Monday, August 1, 2011

No Messi, No Win

How Sweet is This Ride?
Some brief impressions of United's ultimate match in their US tour, in which the Reds gained a small measure of 2-1 revenge over the boys from Barcelona:

o The Twitter "Tweet Up" Tailgate went off without a hitch, and could not have been more fun. I loved meeting @JasThe Devil and his beautiful wife Wendy, @RedMamaStyle, @OleisMyHero and their son BG, @OTMecca and his son Jacob and friends, @parapluieverte@sethirahat, and @Brett_Compton. Along with my son and @cbannerot@fbannerot and another Twitter-less friend and his son, our group was all Red, all the time, and our spirited (and spirit-filled) pre-game was definitely an afternoon to remember. 

The Tweet Up in Action
o The Tweet Up proved several things to me: i) friends are where you find them; ii) there are real (and interesting) people out there behind all those @ signs on Twitter; and iii) it's possible -- through the miracles of modern technology -- to feel like you "know" someone before you have ever physically met them. The Tweet Up made a special game even more memorable, and it turned an evening game into an entire day of fun. A hearty thanks go out to @JasTheDevil for being the organizer of this United-loving group, and bringing the pop up tent, food and drink.

o We drank some pretty good craft brew at the Tweet Up, too: while @JasTheDevil stuck mainly to his Coors, the rest of us enjoyed Stoudt Brewing's Karnival Kolsch (nice, clean taste), 21st Amendment Brewery's Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer (meh; pretty bland), Long Trail Brewing's Belgian White (not the best of it's style, but plenty good enough), Sierra Nevada Brewing's Summerfest Lager, and Southampton Publick House Brewing's Keller Pils, along with IBC Root Beer for the kids.  I really enjoyed the Stoudt Kolsch, and the Long Trail is an old favorite from a trip a couple of summers back to New England. With temperatures approaching the triple digit mark -- and probably even hotter on the pavement surrounding the stadium -- we sought out the little shade we had and the cool, refreshing taste of American craft beer to slake our thirst.